India's Immortal Comic Books

India's Immortal Comic Books

Gods, Kings, and Other Heroes
Karline McLain
Distribution: World
Publication date: 03/04/2009
Format: Paperback 38 b&w photos, 10 color photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-22052-3
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Combining entertainment and education, India's most beloved comic book series, Amar Chitra Katha, or "Immortal Picture Stories," is also an important cultural institution that has helped define, for several generations of readers, what it means to be Hindu and Indian. Karline McLain worked in the ACK production offices and had many conversations with Anant Pai, founder and publisher, and with artists, writers, and readers about why the comics are so popular and what messages they convey. In this intriguing study, she explores the making of the comic books and the kinds of editorial and ideological choices that go into their production.

Author Bio

Karline McLain is Assistant Professor of Religion at Bucknell University.


“The Rama comic book features a muscular, bare—chested, blue—tinged hero on its cover, posed with bow and arrow drawn. A beautiful, fair—skinned woman with long dark tresses watches with wonder as Rama, the hero, takes aim. . . . [Although] in many ways akin to American comic book superheroes such as Superman and Captain America, Rama is not your average fictitious superhero. He is a god in human form, and the Rama comic book is a Hindu devotional story told through the comic book medium.”
 — from the Introduction

“I’ve never taught an introductory Hinduism class without finding that for many Hindu students, Amar Chitra Katha had taught the course long before me. It’s a formidable canon, and like every 'Bible' it’s not just inspirational but, on reflection, controversial. In this absorbing study, Karline McLain takes the comics seriously, showing us the faces behind the pages and tracing the global impact of this culturally crucial medium and text.”
 — John Stratton Hawley, Barnard College, Columbia University

“[O]riginal both in content and in the kinds of sources that are brought to bear on the subject . . . Students of popular culture, contemporary religion, and anthropology will all learn a great deal from McLain's study.”
 — Lisa Trivedi, Hamilton College

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Table of Contents

Notes on Style

Introduction: Comic Books that Radiate a Spiritual Force
1. The Father of Indian Comic Books
2. Long-Suffering Wives and Self-Sacrificing Queens
3. Accurately Sequencing Goddess Durga's Mythology
4. The Warrior-King Shivaji in History and Mythology
5. Muslims as Secular Heroes and Zealous Villains
6. Mahatma Gandhi as a Comic Book Hero
Conclusion. The Global Legacy of Amar Chitra Katha